April 18, 2004


Bigoted and stupid cultural protectionists are continuing their campaign against consumer freedom:

Australian actors will pin green and gold ribbons to their designer outfits at tonight's TV Week Logie Awards to protest against the "pawning" of Australian culture in free trade negotiations with the US.

"Our culture is not a commodity," said Alan Fletcher, who plays Dr Karl Kennedy on Neighbours and is the Victorian president of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA).

The Australian film and television industry has claimed that local actors and audiences have been sold out for "wheat and wine".

This is nothing but creepy Hansonite anti-globalism. Naturally, the Melbourne Age approves:

Tonight, it remains to be seen if soap stars etc will bring their soapboxes to the microphone. But the message will still be clear: this is a protest not for political or individual advantage, but for the very future of a long, distinguished creative industry.

Since the Logies honour a good part of this industry, it is in everyone's interest that the voices of protest be heard and heeded.

On the contrary; these voices should be scorned and mocked. Live scorning and mockery here will accompany tonight’s awards broadcast.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 18, 2004 03:55 PM

You should also keep a counter of the number of times the camera is on Delta Goodrem.

If Alan Fletcher is so concerned about free trade, I'm sure we can arrange for Neighbours to not air on US cable as was previously announced.

Posted by: TokenModerateGuy at April 18, 2004 at 04:13 PM

IMHO, the last great thing on Australian television was Blue Murder. That was as good as the medium gets anywhere in the world.

There's been no rubbishy drama of the soapish kind since Carson's Law. Maybe I'm just getting old. Sigh. Why taxpayers today should subsidise a sheltered cultural workshop - when the fare on offer is such cobblers - is beyond my ken.

'Hurrummph', as Sir Godfrey would say.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at April 18, 2004 at 04:19 PM

Which designers frocks are they pinning these tacky ribbons to? Aussie,?

Posted by: mojo at April 18, 2004 at 04:20 PM

While it's true to say that many anti-liberalisation activists hate America, has there been any addressing of the point that if liberalisation goes ahead, tv networks will cut costs by buying less popular, but cheaper, overseas programs (cheaper in the sense of the cost of buying rights to a show that has already recouped its costs)?

Posted by: Andjam at April 18, 2004 at 04:27 PM

"this is a protest not for political or individual advantage, but for the very future of a long, distinguished creative industry."

Ah, yes, the 10BA tax accountancy industry. Long may it prosper.

Posted by: Clem Snide at April 18, 2004 at 05:01 PM

Dimwittedness seems to be mandatory amongst the arts and farts crowd. Are they so accustomed to parroting somebody else's words that they don't and can't think for themselves?

Posted by: Helen at April 18, 2004 at 05:30 PM

The culture they will be honouring is so distinctly Australian: Reality shows, soap operas, Australian Idol, manufactured pop stars...it's all so dinky-di!

Posted by: slatts at April 18, 2004 at 05:55 PM

My god your actually going to watch it Tim? Stuff That! Godfather II is going to be on Channel 10 and I might actually watch it. Never seen those movies.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at April 18, 2004 at 06:38 PM

After watching Stingers and marvelling at the standard of the acting, I'd be more than happy if the whole of Australian-made TV was pawned off. Nay, it should be given away - Neighbours, Home and Away, Blue Heelers, All Saints and all. How can anything so bad have survived as long as it has?

Posted by: John R at April 18, 2004 at 07:22 PM

If watching a film as brilliant as Godfather Two over some nationalistic awards ceremony is selling out then fine.

Memo to all involved with the Australian Film and Television industry: If you want to be competitive, stop whinging and start making programmes that are actually (drum roll) vaguely watchable. On your own money preferably.

Imagine the outrage if similar xenophobic protests were mounted against any other country's FTV industry.

Posted by: gaz at April 18, 2004 at 07:29 PM

So, Australians don't have "cable" or satellite, and can't choose from channels?

What about Movies? Has Hollywood snuffed out or inhibited national production of Movies? If so, so what?

Who needs sit-coms or Movies? All we really need are Blogs. Now there's some local culture!

Posted by: Joe Peden at April 18, 2004 at 08:24 PM

Top Ten Requirements on the Australian Television Industry's Preferred Cultural Rider:

1) 'Mate' should be uttered frequently;
2) All politically corrupt individuals must always be right-wing. (Remember the Brandy-swilling, black-tie wearing R.G. Menzies in the execrable 'True Believers'?);
3) Engaging, mature, courageous and paradigm-shifting souls are always non-conservative;
4) Preposterously big things happen in small places. (Look out for Osama Bin Laden being found in some cave or other on Blue Heelers. Said cave will probably be adorned by hitherto unseen Aboriginal rock art. Osama will bond with local Aborigines, save handprints from half-wit local yokels - thus proving he's not such a bad stick).
5) Notwithstanding 1), Australians for whom the local idiom is an unaffected character trait rather than a contrivance will always be depicted as 'characters' - pre-modern oddballs. See John Meilon in Crocodile Dundee, Uncle Harry in The Sullivans, Cookie in A Country Practice etc.
6) Business bad;
7) Environmentalists good;
8) Bill Hunter/Gary Sweet must be employed in some capacity - catering, grip, whatever;
9) Australian youth must be radical, left-wing, sexually busy, fashionably dishevilled, preferably troubled;
10) Religion is evil (restricted to Christianity).

Posted by: CurrencyLad at April 18, 2004 at 08:37 PM

In light of the hit on HAMAS (Helicopters And Murderers Aren't Simpatico), Godfather viewers should keep an ear out for Michael's Machivellian musing: "If anything in this life is certain, if history's taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone..." Quite.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at April 18, 2004 at 09:19 PM

Bloody hell! Next thing you know the cane farmers will be sticking their hands out for a ... er ... handout! Bloody whingers.

Posted by: Warbo at April 18, 2004 at 10:43 PM

All these Australian actors who are whinging about Americans taking over the native entertainment...these are the same actors who would sell their left ball for a role in a Hollywood film, and all the financial rewards and prestige that come with it. They're perfectly happy to sleep with the enemy when it suits them personally.

Funny, when they get jobs in America they don't give a thought to the poor, hardworking American actors whose roles they are stealing. For shame!

Posted by: Sasha Castel at April 18, 2004 at 10:46 PM

ooo Catrina Rountree is on. Srew The GodfatherII

Posted by: Dead Ed at April 18, 2004 at 11:00 PM

No-one watches TV anymore anyways..Those ABC comedy shows with that cross-eyed Anderson bloke..Oh my God, how lame..and was there ever a Melbourne TV person who ever lost their job? They just don't go away. Most good shows are from the USA and the UK.

Posted by: AussieJoe at April 18, 2004 at 11:07 PM

These people aren't worried about Australian culture. American culture is their gripe. Its as simple as that. Want proof?: I bet they are more than happy for tax payers to chip in for the imported shows on SBS.

Posted by: Dead Ed at April 18, 2004 at 11:10 PM

And they'd be especially supportive of French films involving on-screen rape.

Posted by: Andjam at April 18, 2004 at 11:29 PM

The Vic Arts Centre and the infamous studio in Docklands has been accused of using public funding to under cut the private operators.

There's irony. The vic state gov is said to be supporting local content in productions, however it libel to kill it off.

Posted by: madison at April 18, 2004 at 11:53 PM

I know absolutely nothing about Australian pop (or, for that matter, high) culture. I like Australians, so far as I'm actually acquainted with them, and think that I'd rather have them on my--that is, America's--side than any other people on earth. But I don't know anything about their media.

That caveat made, and the additional aside that I'm generally pro-globalization, I think this sort of thing is pretty natural. When Le Monde runs cartoons featuring French viewers exchanging their brains for American television, I really do sympathize, as much as my fellow citizens here protest. The fact is, I despise American pop culture myself. It's a damned sewer, and a corrosive one at that. I simply can't imagine how much I'd hate it if it was being beamed into my society from abroad.

Perhaps the response seems idiotic because it's aesthetic, which in turn is often mistaken for unfounded prejudice. In truth, I sort of wish Americans spent more time protesting the garbage we're expected to lap up. The problem is, we generally do lap it up. What Australians might be getting may be the dregs of our programming, and if that's the case, I'm inclined to wear a ribbon on your behalf.

All that said, these people are obviously morons.

Posted by: Sage at April 19, 2004 at 12:01 AM

Yeah, Sage, agreed; the problem with France is they have no pop culture, so it's their high culture that they've turned into a corrosive sewer.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 19, 2004 at 12:17 AM

this is exactly the reason these actors are protesting. You know nothing of australian culture, and if the FTA goes ahead, future aussies probably won't. Tim here, in my opinion a fine example of an uncultured, ignorant man, is a model of the dismal future we face.

Posted by: JF at April 19, 2004 at 02:42 AM

this is exactly the reason these actors are protesting. You know nothing of australian culture, and if the FTA goes ahead, future aussies probably won't. Tim here, in my opinion a fine example of an uncultured, ignorant man, is a model of the dismal future we face.

Posted by: john f at April 19, 2004 at 02:58 AM


Gimme a break. The point isn't whether or not Australian culture isn't a culture worth protecting, the question is whether the Australian taxpayer ought to be forced to subsidize Australian TV, shield it from competition and deny themselves other options.

Posted by: Andrew at April 19, 2004 at 03:00 AM

Sage and JF, please define pop (as in popular) culture. Is it Britney? Is it Eminem? Is it Faith Hill? What is it?

Posted by: ushie at April 19, 2004 at 03:10 AM

Good Lord. The gripe on this side of the lake is that you can't throw a rock in Hollywood without hitting an Australian.

Personally, I'om on the lookout for Aussie movies on HBO all the time. I love them, because I want to get as close a glimpse of Australian life as I can (bearing in mind that these are movies). And no, I don't think every Australian is Crocodile Dundee. I've never seen your TV, so I can't say anything about that.

Posted by: Rebecca at April 19, 2004 at 03:15 AM

Well, I miss Chips Rafferty... that was pretty much the peak of Aussie culture, wunnit?

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at April 19, 2004 at 03:36 AM

And how can you say we dis Ozzie culture when at least six of us went to see Kangaroo Jack?

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at April 19, 2004 at 03:37 AM

Hey, Sage, who's this "we," white man? Ever since I discovered I can turn off my tv, I realized I no longer had to "lap up" anything. You can learn to pick the wheat from the chaff in American (or any) pop culture's offerings: it's called "Blockbuster Video"* and a good movie reference guide. (And if you want higher culture you can still get this thing called a "library card.")

*Or any other video outlet -- preferably one of those independent ones that stock a wider variety of films than four-thousand copies of Disney's latest release, but even at the local maga-chain there's always something.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 19, 2004 at 04:26 AM

Distinguished and creative... Neighbours??!!??!!

Posted by: Freddyboy at April 19, 2004 at 09:00 AM

"Our culture is not a commodity,"

Presumably he means it's not a commodity because nobody would be willing to buy it if they actually had a choice?

Posted by: PW at April 19, 2004 at 09:50 AM

It's not just lefties who are against this. I support the Howard government in just about every way but this is going a bit to far. Australia has a decent TV industry, and I for one do not want to see it replaced (more so) buy more typical crappy US sitcoms

Posted by: a at April 19, 2004 at 11:23 AM

If culture is not a commodity, then by definition there is no economic gain or loss to be reaped from it. This is true both for its inclusion in a trade agreement and as a means of generating actors income. So whats the problem?

Posted by: Greg at April 19, 2004 at 11:33 AM

I think the point is that they don't want it to be a commodity which is what is proposed under the FTA.

In a sense I agree with them in that commodity wars are a race to the bottom. Cheapest always wins. Combine this with the fact that commercial networks treat their audience with contempt and it does open up the door for a flood of cheap, middle of the road crap from the US.

It threatens turning what is already a risk averse industry to stagnation.

Posted by: Bruce at April 19, 2004 at 12:17 PM

For overseas readers who are unfamiliar with Aussie tv, here's a summary:

Currently what passes for Australian-made tv is mostly geared towards the shallow and fatuous: teenagers (pop stars, reality shows, soapies), home owners - there is plague of home improvement/gardening shows that have been welded onto the reality tv genre, execrable (melo)dramas set either in the big bad city (eg hospitals, cop shops, tediously "free spirited" youth living in the inner city etc) or the big outback (cattle stations, country cop shops) etc. Game shows here tend to be pitched at the below average intellect. TV current affairs shows are best explained by the satiric series Frontline. Most Australian TV content tries to survive on personality rather than actual quality of content, which probably explains the current rash of chat shows that feature overhyped "comic personalities" as the hosts. Given the emergence of gaming and the internet, tv has become redundant in my house.

Posted by: Junia at April 19, 2004 at 12:22 PM

Bruce, I think the point is that if it wasn't a commodity they could not make a living.

Typical of the self serving distortions the industry comes up with, is a comment by the Australian Screen Directors Association executive director Richard Harris, that the Free Trade Agreement would limit Australian content on pay TV to a maximum of 20 per cent.

Actually the FTA permits setting of a 20 per cent floor. See http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/us_fta/backgrounder/audiovisual.html

Not quite the same thing unless one accepts that the public must be force fed material that it does not demand.

I suppose, as this is something the AFR's report on p6 "Logies take FTA protest to new stage" by Lisa Allen states Richard Harris said, it may not be an accurate quote but merely sloppy journalism. However, how could that happen?

Posted by: Greg at April 19, 2004 at 12:49 PM

Junia: it looks like the Australian television industry doesn't need any American contributions: Australians have our formula down to perfection and can crank out perfect imitations on their own.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 19, 2004 at 02:15 PM